REVIEW: St Peter's fifth Brilliant Young Pianists series brings Adrian Oldland to Marlborough
Adrian began his musical studies at the age of seven when he joined his local church choir and went on to gain a place at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music where be completed both a B Mus and an M Mus, studying under Alexander Ardakov.
Since then Adrian has gone on to establish himself as an exciting and formidable performer on the concert platform, noted especially for his sensitive interpretations of the works of Robert Schumann. He has taken part in many master classes with distinguished pianists such as Peter Donohoe and William Howard, and currently enjoys a busy career, performing regularly across the UK and throughout Europe.
Adrian Oldland began his recital with two of Schumann’s eight ‘Novelletten’ or short stories written in 1838. No 1 begins with a march-like staccato theme which gives way several times to a more languid and expansive theme, full of sunshine, before returning triumphantly to the original theme - two very different moods in one piece, very reflective of Schumann’s own personality.
Clearly at ease with Schumann, Adrian made much of the contrasts, highlighting the plangent mood of the trio theme. No 8 is a much grander piece, but again, Adrian developed the marked contrast in mood which the piece exploits. It opens with a passionate statement heard above an outpouring of rippling semi-quavers.
This gives way to a jovial trio before returning with renewed urgency to the first theme before a second trio changes the mood again; contrasts that were very well articulated.
Then comes the last movement, which is almost the same the length as the remainder of the piece and with its own dramatic contrasts in mood, first languid and reflective and then forceful and masculine.
All human emotions seem to be encapsulated in this movement of frantic contrasts of both key and mood. The movement seems rather disjointed ('ramshackle' was the word Adrian used!) as if these short movements were put together randomly. However the movement does have some shape with a repeated use of the initial march theme.
Technically this was a ‘tour de force’. However, although the contrasts were clear, I thought there was insufficient ‘storm’ and grandeur in the louder sections.
Beethoven’s Sonata No 30 in E major completed the first half of the recital. This is a fine work - both personal and intimate. The first movement is all froth separated by more tranquil sections, while the second movement, a ‘prestissimo’, is more urgent and compelling. It was well played, but lacked some of the drama which the composition requires.
Finally came the third movement a gentle cantabile - one of the finest melodies that Beethoven ever produced. It is like a wistful sigh or a gentle yearning. This theme is then developed into a series of variations of varying character and complexity until the listener is returned to the serenity of the opening melody.
Technically Adrian’s playing was impressive, but was lacking in emotional intensity - the initial theme lacking in personal engagement and languor.
The second part of the concert was devoted entirely to one work: Franz Liszt’s ‘Apres une lecture du Dante’. This enormous work known is known as a ‘Fantasia quasi Sonata’ and was published in 1856 as part of the second volume of his ‘Annees de Pelerinage’.
The piece was inspired, as the name suggests, by the extended poem ‘The Divine Comedy’ completed in 1320 by the greatest of all Italian poets Dante Alighieri. As in the poem Liszt transports the listener on a journey towards eternal bliss through Hell and Purgatory until Paradise is finally gained.
Liszt begins the work in the key of D Minor and makes frequent use of the ‘Devil’s interval’, the augmented fourth. Both musical devices were used by many composers to portray the wailing of souls and the hopelessness of Hell. Slowly this turbulent work transforms into a brighter F sharp major key as we are drawn up towards the Heaven.
The work ends with a series of the massive chords in the key of D major - reflecting the reality of redemption as we bask in the glory of Paradise.
Like the poem which was its inspiration, this is a very profound work - technically and emotionally demanding. Adrian certainly rose to the technical challenge, but the performance was lacking in emotional punch. I remained unmoved by the horrors of Hell, and the rapturous description of Heaven lacked real conviction.
It was a very good concert, and it was refreshing to hear Adrian introduce the works at the beginning. However his demeanor and playing were a little stiff and short on emotional input especially in the Liszt. He has the potential to go far, and we wish him well.
NOTE: the recital advertised for Sunday, 26 March has had to be postponed. It will now take place on Sunday, 25 June and will feature the tri of Simon Watterton (piano), Anna Cashell (violin) and Ashok Klouda (cello).